Life and Freedom - IWM North Marks Independence Of India

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 07 August 2007
a black and white photograph of Indian women in saris wearing world war two british style helmets with ARP written on them and carrying stretchers

Indian women train for ARP duties in Bombay, 1941. © IWM

A small but powerful exhibition marking the 60th anniversary of the Independence of India and foundation of Pakistan is currently showing at Imperial War Museum North in Manchester.

Using archive photographs from Imperial War Museum's collections together with personal stories and photographs of local people, Life and Freedom runs until November 4 2007 and provides a fascinating glimpse of the enormous contributions made by Indian people during the Second World War at home and on many fighting fronts.

It also explores how the momentous events of Independence and Partition have shaped individual lives.

a black and white photograph of soldiers carrying their kitbags along a dockside

Newly arrived Indian troops on the Quayside at Singapore, November 1941. © IWM

India's contribution to the Allied cause in the Second World War was immense. Over 2.3 million men and women volunteered for the Indian armed services, of whom 24,338 were killed on active service.

India became the major base for British operations against Japan, and India's war economy provided vast amounts of supplies.

Photographs of Indian workers toiling in factories to produce armoured cars, tanks and other weapons are testimony to the remarkable war effort that came out of the sub-continent between 1939 and 1945.

a black and white photograph of men working on an armoured car in a workshop

Indian workers at a railway workshop now employed in the construction of armoured vehicles, 1941. © IWM

2007 sees the 60th Anniversary of the Independence of India from the British Empire and partition of India and Pakistan. The two events are extremely significant in world history, resulting in huge population shifts and accelerating the pace of British withdrawal from Empire.

The course of Independence was bound up with India's participation in the British Empire's war effort in the Second World War especially.

The new Labour government elected in July 1945 resolved to grant independence to India as soon as possible. In India a bitter struggle took place between political and religious factions over what form an independent India should take.

a black and white photograph of a world war two fighter pliot standing next to his plane

Student pilot of the Indian Air Force beside his Hurricane at a Flying Training School in Kohat, North West Frontier Province. © IWM

India was eventually partitioned along religious lines in 1947, creating two separate states - Pakistan with a mainly Muslim population, and India with a largely Hindu population.

After Partition, over 15 million people moved over the new borders. Outbreaks of extreme violence occurred and possibly as many as one million people were killed.

"Whole communities were destroyed, not just families, torn asunder by political manoeuvring," runs one of the commentaries by Ujjal Singh from Manchester.

This emotive display of around 30 photographs together with an accompanying events programme is a modest but fitting testament to a people, a continent – and one of the major events of the 20th century.

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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